Saturday, September 30, 2023

All the things she doesn't need anymore

Newspaper text imaged with phone magnifier app

When I worked in the entertainment manufacturing business, it seemed I was constantly noticing news about music, movies, manufacturing, and the latest developments in ways of getting music and movies to consumers. When I was in the travel business every other commercial seemed to be for a travel website, every news report about this major weather event or that failure of an airline's computer system. When I moved on to work at a cable/telephone/internet provider, every commercial seemed to be trying to get me to switch to another provider. In my current job, almost every commercial and news story seems to be directly related to what I'm doing.

My mom had many physical issues in her final years. She hadn't driven in nearly ten years, since an accident that landed her in the hospital overnight and did minor damage sufficient to total her previous car. (Except one time she apparently snuck out of the house and used the car she had bought as a replacement without anyone knowing. I noticed it later when I found that the seat and steering wheel had been adjusted for someone much smaller than me, her assigned chauffeur.) She was losing dexterity and strength in her hands; she couldn't hold things without dropping them, had difficulty writing, and couldn't raise her hands above her shoulders. Her chronic joint pain caused her to slather her knees with pain-killing ointments. The posts on the caps on her teeth lost purchase in her jawbone, requiring removal of all of her upper teeth and replacement with an upper denture plate. Her blood chemistry was problematic, requiring regular blood tests and frequent tweaks to her medications. Her breast cancer, once dealt with, never returned; her heart valve replacement served her well; her knee joint replacements were problem-free, until the day her one leg snapped just above the knee joint.  

After my mom died, every commercial seemed to be for something targeted towards her. Some were things she already had, or was already using. Others were for things she could have used, things that would have made her life better. Things she doesn't need anymore.

She was losing her eyesight thanks to macular degeneration, a condition we dealt with through frequent trips to a specialist for treatments and the purchase of a great many magnifiers of all sorts. She loved to read the obituary pages every day, and regularly read Reader's Digest and the weekly checkout magazine Women's World. For the last few years I had subscribed her to the large print edition of Reader's Digest, but there was no such option for the daily newspaper of Women's World. Most magnifiers top out at 1.5x, a rare few at 3x. We experimented with many different styles and types of magnifiers, and had settled on a lighted rectangular 3x magnifier for the kitchen table, and a slightly less powerful handheld magnifying glass for the bathroom. Even with these, she still had difficulty reading.

Today during a meeting it occurred to me that I would like to get a USB-connected microscope for my Chromebook. No special reason, I would just like to get one to look at stuff. Later, while doing a search (on my break), I came across mentions of a magnifier app for your phone. I had considered full-page magnifiers for the newspaper for my mom, or something that could connect to a Chromebook. My mom was never interested in computers, which is why we never considered simply having her read the online edition of the newspaper with the text set to Large. Nor did she care much about the smartphone she had to trade up to when her old flip phone became obsolete and unsupported. (Her lack of finger dexterity made the new phone virtually unusable.) So I never even thought about the possibility of using the camera on her phone to magnify the text in the newspaper.

Seven and a half months after her stroke, I can report that the magnifier app would have worked just fine to address her reading issues.

Friday, September 22, 2023

Carved in stone


A lifetime summarized in a dash. My mom lived to be nearly 89 years and 6 months old. It took more than six months to get this engraving done. (The engraver was delayed initially due to a hip replacement, and then...he forgot.)

Monday, September 11, 2023

Another dream of my mom

This past Friday would have been my mom's 90th birthday. She had really been looking forward to it. She fell short by six months and a few days.

I had another dream with my mom in it. I wanted to capture if before it fades.

I was in graduate school. Graduate school for me was a truly miserable experience - I have described it as feeling like being mugged while drowning. This version was not much better. I was doing horribly, and so was everyone else around me.

On a whim, inadvisably, I chose to take a weekend off. I spent it with some friends in the Poconos, doing the things we did back then: drinking, hanging out, watching movies, screwing around. Outside of the dream, it was fun remembering those carefree days.

But then it was back to work - or in this case, school. The professor declared that we had all been doing terribly on tests and he wanted to get to the root of the problem. So he gave us another test, but this time he wanted us to write out our reasoning for each answer.

This was graduate school for physics, but the test focused exclusively on advanced mathematics. For every question I was completely stumped: not only did I not see a path to a solution, but I didn't even understand what question was being asked. I scrawled that on the test, noting that I was a physics major, not a mathematics major. I tossed the test aside and felt like a miserable failure.

I heard a ruckus outside. My mother was there, confronting a school administrator. She was young, not much older than I am now, about the age she was when I was in graduate school. She was smartly dressed all in gray, with a gray scarf and gray topcoat. She looked like she had just left work and driven straight to where I was going to grad school - in real life, a nearly three hour drive.

I left the room to speak to her, and she immediately began berating me: Why hadn't I called? Why had I just vanished this past weekend? Why didn't I let her know what was going on?

This made me furious. How dare she embarrass me like this! Why wouldn't she just let me be my own person? I would call her when I damned well felt like it! 

I stormed off back to the classroom, telling her not to call and not to come and visit unannounced. I would call her at some point, maybe.

And that's where the dream ended.

My mom visiting me in Delaware in 1990, after I had dropped out of grad school.
She had come to pick up Josie, a cat who was being given up by her
owners because they had to move and couldn't take her.
She was 56 or 57 in this photo. I'm currently 55.